David Freeze: Heading into Florida after getting on road with Ida behind

Published 12:10 am Thursday, September 2, 2021

Editor’s note: David Freeze is riding from the West Coast to the East Coast along the southern border. Email him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

Day 37

My days on the lam went something like this: Afternoon one was sort of fun in anticipation of the big storm, especially with a trip to Walmart. Day two got serious late with big rain and wind, and I went to Walmart twice. Day three started to seem like I was too closed in and not even another trip to Walmart helped.

Last night, the last one was almost in captivity with probably the worst weather of any time, torrential and blinding stuff, and the fourth local tornado too. So I busted out today, even though most people at the motel were holding firm.

This morning seems so long ago and it was the beginning of an epic day. I wanted to go to Mobile, Alabama, to figure out how to get across the bay and reach a good jumping off point for the next day. I started riding from Lucedale, the town that gave me a home during the storm. Most of my ride was on S.R. 98, getting busier until I crossed into Alabama about mid-morning.

Alabama’s roads changed my riding surface to one with rumble strips and some of the hardest rising I have ever done for about 13 miles. I either had to ride in the traffic lane or try to hang on to 6-10 inches of pavement, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right of the rumble strip.

Finally, the nerve wracking stuff ended when I rolled into the City of Semmes, named for the Confederate admiral. I didn’t know the best way to find the one bridge that would take me around Mobile Bay and out of the city for the rest of my travels east. Bikes can’t go in the underwater tunnels and most people seemed to think they weren’t allowed on the interstates in Alabama either. So I had to find the bridge using regular streets and roads.

I met Alex who had a good idea, but didn’t know the exact details. Then, on a hunch, I stopped by the Auto Zone expecting that some gruff old parts guy could tell me just how to do it. One of the girls offered her expertise and helped me draw out a plan. She didn’t give her name or allow a photo, but her plan set me on a mission. I used a couple new friends to help, one the assistant manager of O’Reilly Auto Parts in Pritchard and Luis McMurphy who worked for a utility company but was watching the roadway flooding.

Pritchard looks like a poor town but with plenty of help, I made it through to the bridge 3 miles shorter than the Adventure Cycling folks planned their route. Hoping that all involved will read about their help — great job everyone!

Before I left Pritchard, I came upon one of the prettiest historic Catholic churches that I have seen and it was right along my route. Famous train engineer Casey Jones was baptized in the church.

I made it up and over the bridge while enjoying views of the bay and the battleship USS Alabama’s Historical Park.

Riding through what I think was Daphne was nice enough but very hilly. I had planned about 70 miles to make Loxley, probably the last town for me in Alabama. It took 69.37 miles and I’m not always that close.

The final adventure happened in this town. I sort of had a room reserved by name, which I do a lot. I called this afternoon and confirmed that I did have a room. The owner put me in a smaller motel building, back about a quarter mile a way toward town. This one will make my second entry into the crappy motel list. So I called the owner back at the main place and had an argument. In an agreement that I am only marginally happy with, I got one of the best rooms of the trip in another entirely separate building. Look for the details in the book.

So, I should be heading into Florida early tomorrow and rejoining the Adventure Cycling course mostly for the rest of the trip. I have to do a little sideways pedaling and then want to knock out the final part of the sixth series of maps.

Let me hold off on mileage remaining until the end of day tomorrow and I’ll have a better idea. A good day! Thanks for those prayers, as always!


Day 38: Another good day, but still a lot of pedaling to go

This was a day that I winged from the start. I got up before 5 a.m. to be ready ahead of first light. I had to add air to the bike’s back tire for the third straight day and made plans for getting that fixed too.

I headed out the door, rode out to the highway and turned right. But within about 3 miles, I pulled over because there were no U.S. 90 East signs. I asked Siri and she told me to go back to town and get on 90 West. That was sort of dumb, because as it turned out, all I had to do was just keep going, according to the Google Assistant. About 5 miles into the ride, I had the sign, the right road and a nickname for 90 East listed as the Old Spanish Trail. That started a whole day of riding the same road and will see it more as I head east.

Most of the Alabama portion of 90 East had rumble strips but I rode in the lane because traffic wasn’t heavy. About 20 miles into the day, I found the “Welcome to Florida” sign. The area was beautifully landscaped, the bike lane widened and the rumble strips vanished. Very soon, I-10 intersected the area and it became very busy, with miles and miles of rolling hills and a great bike lane.

I entered Escambia County and crossed the river by the same name. My first big goal was the town of Milton and the Truly Spokin’ bike shop. I asked Matt to take a look at the tire and tube and see if there was still some metal or glass in it. They found a wire, likely the kind that comes from steel belted tires, and pulled it out. A tube change, a few adjustments and I was back on the road.

My challenge for the rest of the afternoon was to find lodging for the evening and ride another 30 miles. I got both, with the final 30 miles of an 81-mile day and a room in the Crestview Inn in Crestview. I asked for a WiFi check and to see the room first, and all turned out well.

I have been asked what I eat out of convenience stores when they are the only option. As an example tonight, I got two Breyer’s ice creams, usually about half the price of the others. I get something like egg salad and chips, plenty of ice or water and a couple other snacks. Tonight, the clerk rang up the sandwich and a big Smart Water at way too much. I pointed out her error based on shelf pricing and she fixed both cheerfully.

Now back to the overall miles remaining. As of tonight, 440 miles remain with more than 2,600 completed. Like a reader said the other night, we can’t ride a straight line to get to St. Augustine. I am still 28 miles from finishing off the last map of the sixth series. All 409.5 miles remain on the complete seventh series. My goal is about 5-6 riding days remaining.

By the way, I have already eaten all that food, easily. I will still have more and I am drinking water and lemonade in great quantities.

Milton is a town that I would like to see again. It was incorporated in 1844, ahead of Florida becoming a state the next year. Milton was involved in shipbuilding until the end of the Civil War and survived but the railroad and lumber both evolved into agriculture being the top industry. The U.S. Navy maintains Whiting Field from which I saw several flights this afternoon. There are lots of historic older homes in town too.

Other communities I passed through today were Pace and Holt, all of this on U.S. 90 East. I will be back on it tomorrow.

Enough hills kept me honest today, but the upcoming flatter terrain will be welcome. I’m hoping for a big day tomorrow and closing in on Tallahassee and a town right before it called Midway.

Keep riding along, there’s more excitement in store!